Generally speaking, it’s always a good day when a Martin acoustics land on our doorstep, but this is particularly interesting for a couple of reasons.
For a start, this limited-edition model has been specially made in Martin’s Custom Shop for the UK market via distributors Westside in Glasgow, but even more intriguing, it features mahogany that has been submerged in water for a few centuries as their primary tonewoods.
This particular model is triple-0, almost identical to the OM save for the slight difference in scale length. As you can see, it has a Sitka spruce top and everything you’d expect from a Custom Shop model: the spruce is perfectly bookmatched, the grain straight with that sort of faintly golden hue that you just know is going to progress to a luxurious amber given the passage of time. The back and sides take on that typical ‘streaky’ appearance, where contrasting golden lines appear in the grain.
Back to the plot and the butterbean tuning button that adorns the headstock belongs to open-geared Gotoh nickel machineheads, nuts and saddle are bone, fingerboard and bridge are ebony, and faux tortoiseshell scratchplate is affixed. As a further refinement, the label inside the soundhole has been signed by Chris Martin IV, which is bound to set the collector market a-twitching. The build quality is exquisite inside and out and the ingredients present here add up to something spectacular in terms of tone.
Martin claims that the presence of sinker mahogany in this guitar produces a “huge voice” and that it “thrives on being played hard and is extremely responsive to picking”. Releasing this guitars from the confines of its case confirms that the triple-0 shape is one of the most comfortable to sit or stand with. Many players find dreadnoughts a little cumbersome and unwieldy, but OMs and triple-0s feel tailor-made, to this writer at least.
The best way to describe this particular guitar’s sound is that it has sparkle. Where the recently-released all-mahogany version is packed with power and considerable bluesy grunt, the Sitka has added treble and presence. All the whack from the sinker back and sides is still present, but that change of top wood is all it takes to push the sound that one notch higher. Where its partner might be a bluesman’s dream come true, this instrument would be a powerful ally for a singer-songwriter or fingerstyle instrumentalist. Along with the added brightness, there’s an airy quality to the sound. Basses are strident and full of snap, the trebles simply sing out.
Martin’s Custom Shop has managed to surprise us once again with this triple-0 instrument. You can imagine how hard it must be to rework an established model, but the inclusion of sinker mahogany in the build of this example really has made a considerable difference. Factor in the Custom Shop’s renowned skill at creating fabulous beasts and you have a cherry on top.
This acoustic is blessed with considerable virtues in terms of tone - and when you think about it, this is the company that created the benchmark steel-string acoustic sound in the first place. Here, Martin’s team has managed to add an extra gear through the use of an extremely rare and unusual tonewood.